Monday, April 27, 2009

Sox win 10th straight, sweeping Yanks

It was a rivalry weekend in which the Red Sox provided countless forms of excitement for their fans.

There was a walk-off win on Friday night despite a two-run deficit with two outs in the ninth, a slugfest victory on Saturday to overcome a six-run deficit and finally a 4-1 triumph on Sunday that included an electrifying straight steal of home by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Just like that, the red-hot Red Sox swept the Yankees in this three-game set to run their winning streak to 10 games.

"It was not the most direct route to win those games, but ultimately it came against a huge rival in the division," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "We came in with the same record [as the Yankees]. There's a lot of positives, not just because it's the Yankees -- which is a big plus -- but we want to keep playing well."

The Red Sox's first double-digit winning streak since they went on a 12-game run from June 16-29, 2006, has come on the heels of a 2-6 start.

Having completed a 9-0 homestand, the Red Sox will open a nine-game road trip in Cleveland on Monday night.

"We've played great," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We've hit, we've pitched -- we've won a lot of different ways. When you're doing a lot of good things, you're going to win."

Sometimes it's not just good things, but extraordinary things.

Ellsbury's steal of home with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning came against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte. It was the first steal of home by a Red Sox player since Jose Offerman on Aug. 30, 1999. Ellsbury became the first Boston player to register a straight steal of home since Billy Hatcher on April 22, 1994.

"What we have is a really fast player with some guts," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

With left-handed-hitting outfielder J.D. Drew at the plate and the count at 1-1, Ellsbury got a big lead and bolted just as Pettitte went into his windup. The center fielder went in headfirst to beat Jorge Posada's tag. The pitch was a called strike.

"On the previous pitch, I saw Andy go into his windup," Ellsbury said. "I was joking around with [third-base coach] DeMarlo [Hale] that I could steal home, and it was just one of those situations where it was bases loaded and J.D. up. If I go, I have to make it. But I took the chance, and fortunately I made it."

There were no signs relayed from the dugout to Hale. Ellsbury went on his own.

When Ellsbury crossed home, the Red Sox had a 3-1 lead. Drew promptly drilled a ground-rule double into the corner in right to make it a three-run lead.

"Like I said, it was a huge pick-me-up," said Bay. "It's better than a base hit or a home run. It's something that -- baseball is a game that's hard to play on emotion. But that right there was kind of like a huge infusion of energy. It was one of those times in the game where momentum shifts, and that was a pretty obvious one."

Swing man Justin Masterson, making his second start in place of injured right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, turned in another strong performance. Masterson went 5 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking one and striking out four while throwing 99 pitches.

"He was terrific," said Francona. "He attacked the strike zone, he changed speeds -- I thought he had good depth to his slider. He threw a couple of changeups and got his fastball by a couple of guys."

Their bullpen spent after the chaos of the previous two games, the Red Sox went to some new faces but got good results. Left-hander Hunter Jones recorded the final two outs of the sixth inning in his second Major League appearance.

Michael Bowden, also pitching his second Major League game after being activated just for Sunday's game, gave the Red Sox a big lift with two shutout innings.

"Tonight was particularly satisfying," Francona said. "We went to Hunter Jones, and he got big outs. Michael Bowden comes in and gets outs. We didn't have a whole lot of different guys to go to, but it was very satisfying. We did enough to win tonight, and that's what we wanted to do."

With closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable because of his recent workload, Takashi Saito came on for his second save, completing the sweep.

"It's nice to sweep anybody," said Pedroia. "But we know they're going to be there in the end. We've just got to keep playing good baseball."

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